Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) forges partnerships with nomadic and rural desert peoples of West Africa to realize their ambitions for education and enduring livelihoods with a focus on empowering girls and women with learning and earning.
Feb 27, 2014

Savings & Loans Groups for Mentors

Seiga
Seiga

The nomadic communities of Seiga & Ingui in the Tillaberi region of Niger are hard hit by recent droughts and an influx of Mali refugees. Men are often absent searching for work, leaving women to support families without means to generate income and no access to seed funds. Though RAIN mentoring programs in both communities have drastically increased girls' enrollment, education is a long term investment that requires sustainable support. With RAIN's help, women mentors start small enterprises such as herding or tailoring. S&L groups help keep it all going.

A new initiative, our savings and loan programs provide the seed funds needed for mentors to engage in small scale enterprise to generate income. Training will equip mentors to extend the program to women in the the wider communities. 50% of funds generated will support the mentoring program keeping at-risk girls in school and providing sustainability. S&L members learn the value of saving and basic principles of finance as family stability and food security increases.

For the communities of Seiga & Ingui, 30 mentors and their families will be able to retain their current food stocks and herd animals with income to purchase food with help from the S&L. Subsistence level herding will grow to become profit generating enterprise along with the knowledge of the value of saving. Women's contributions and decisions will empower them economically & socially as the program is extended to hundreds more women in Seiga and Ingui as well as surrounding areas.

Girls + Women = Greater Empowerment!

The RAIN Mentoring program is about keeping at-risk girls learning and in school - but it's also about economically and socially empowering the women who mentor them. Knowledge is shared and support is increased- making this the most beloved and popular program in our partner communities.

Now, these two communities will have the opportunity to learn and earn. Visit our S&L project page to learn more.

As always, thank you for your support!

"Knowledge is like the bird in the forest. No one person can catch it."    - African Proverb

Seiga mentor president
Seiga mentor president
Mentors in training
Mentors in training
Seiga mentors
Seiga mentors
Mentor and student
Mentor and student

Links:

Jan 24, 2014

RAIN artisans get a boost from "boutique matchmaker" Andrea Williamson

Andrea Williamson
Andrea Williamson

Niger’s nomads are skilled craftspeople; the artistry trade is traditional to certain castes of people and has long supported them. Traditional skills have eroded over time, and fewer young women learn the skills their mothers and grandmothers knew. Keeping traditional culture alive is part and parcel of what we do. Members of our artisan co-operatives act as cultural ambassadors to the next generation. As they earn more, learn new designs and expand their markets, interest grows in the community.  With help from RAIN, co-op artisans play a key role in designing products and choosing materials for both local sales and the U.S. Now, these efforts will receive a real boost in potential for U.S. markets.

Since 2005, we've been privileged to have Illiah Addoh, master leatherworker and head of the Zinder Leather Artisan Cooperative at Niger’s National Museum, provide training to RAIN artisans in how to create their culturally traditional products within modern contexts. The next step: connecting those products with U.S. distribution channels.

Enter Andrea Williamson. Using her fifteen years of experience in small business sales and marketing, Andrea has focused the last five years as an "international boutique matchmaker" to help artisans in more than 50 countries suceed in U.S. markets. "I became fascinated with the unbridled creativity emerging from these artisans," says Andrea. "from the incredible items fashioned from upcycled materials in the Phillipines to croched and quilted creations from South Africa, artisans come upon frequent stumbling blocks, such as language, import laws, and quality consistency, that keep their products from this channel of distribution. Both the artisans and boutiques in the U.S. then miss out on a great opportunity."

"I'm inspired by Bess' vision of empowering nomadic women in Niger to bring their skills to the next level while providing for their families in the face of such extreme poverty, and am excited about what these women are creating - fabulous leather  purses and tote bags by the Tuareg ladies, and the Wodaabe women expressing their rich culture with colorful embroidered textiles. I feel confident that with a little bit of creativity, we can help to open up this channel for these artisans."

A country like Niger at times seems worlds away to those in the U.S. If we can bring more hand crafted cultural treasures to our friends here - that's another direct connection to the nomadic women of the Sahel and Sahara, with new liveihoods and support for local schools as the result.

Thank you for paving the way to empowerment for nomadic women!

P.S. Coming soon: The RAIN online Shopify store!

Links:

Dec 11, 2013

New Initiative: Women's Community Gardens

Women discussing what they
Women discussing what they've learned in Mari

Sustainable agriculture is key to lifting rural families out of poverty and chronic malnutrition. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women grow as much as 90% of the region's food. However, custom and family demands often prevent women from spending the time needed to cultivate agriculture.  An optimal solution is a large communal garden with drip irrigation. 

The women in our partner communities become empowered by the process of the school market gardens - they head the committees that make planting and harvesting decisions, become literate in accounting, and learn how to harvest and prepare the crops for sale. It's only natural that the next step would be to empower them with greater food security by investing in their own garden cooperatives. 

Building upon the successful School Market Garden model, RAIN has initiated our first women’s agricultural cooperative in the Tillaberi community of Mari. The Mari garden was installed with 99 women who are finding empowerment and food security, as well as receiving training in organic agriculture techniques and nutrition.  The cooperative garden model ensures consistent watering through group effort. Profits are increased by each member’s participation in money-saving marketing and delivery methods.  Each woman contributes to the monthly salary of a gardener to run the drip irrigation system, allowing her a flexible schedule. Using solar drying ovens provided by RAIN, they prepare, dry and preserve the produce for sale in local markets. They also sell seeds as well. As in our artisan cooperatives, the women keep 50% of the proceeds and donate the remainder to their children's schools.  

The 5,000 square meter Mari community garden is one of the largest of its kind in Niger. From weekly classes taught by RAIN staff Brian Nowak and Halima Aboubacar, we've created a dedicated study guide focused on organic gardening techniques, health and nutrition, and crop selection for profitability. Designed for those who are unable to read, the study guides utilize illustrated flip charts for easy reference with an emphasis on oral instruction and hands-on experience. Already in Mari, encouraging the community with inexpensive ways to boost nutrition has taught the value of a healthy organic lifestyle. The introduction of three season crops and providing the foundation for a seed bank has brought increased crop yields. 

Here in traditional hamlets and familial encampments in the middle of nowhere, the best of humanity is shining through in the face of continued hardships. We'll be continuing with the Mari agricultural co-op as the women learn how to better market their crops and earn more income for their families. In 2014, we hope to bring community gardens to women in more nomadic communities in Niger. During the next three months, GlobalGiving will be featuring a microproject page to help fund this goal. We know that helping our friends in West Africa achieve food security is important to you, so we thought we'd share this exciting addition to our sustainable agriculture programs. Why not give a gift donation to someone who shares your passion this year?

Thank you for all you do for rural and nomadic desert communities!

Wishing you Happy Holidays and great things in the year to come,

The RAIN team

Planting together
Planting together
Mari mom with child
Mari mom with child
Ready to get started
Ready to get started
In session with Brian and Halima
In session with Brian and Halima
The next generation
The next generation

Links:


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